• Such an inflatable heat shield could help a spacecraft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars and other areas that would otherwise be inaccessible under existing technology.
  • The rings would be filled with nitrogen and covered with a thermal blanket. Once deployed for landing, the rings would sit atop the spacecraft, somewhat resembling a giant mushroom.
  • Engineers at Langley have been working on the inflatable technology for about a decade, and believe it is close to being ready for operational use. "If I had the budget and we had the funding to do it, I think we could get as large a scale as needed for humans in five to ten years," Cheatwood said.

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